I dedicate this blog to my friend, Angela, who inspired me to write it.
When my kids were born I got obsessed with taking pictures and videos of them all the time. I wanted to captured every change in their growth, every facial expression, every holiday, the time spent with grandparents, their baptisms, communions, graduations and on and on. I took plenty of pictures and videos, but we never look at them. Time marches on and in this busy world we never have time to sit still and look through photo albums. A few special pictures hang on the walls of our home, and thousands are packed away just in case we want to look at them. But I realized, as great as pictures are, they are no substitute for our memories. A picture can only trigger a memory, not save it.
Our memories are not in those pictures. Our memories are in our minds, in our hearts and in our souls. They are not flat, two dimensional pieces of paper. They are vivid and alive, they have depth. They are the keepsakes of our emotions, of our relationships, of the stages of our lives, of where we have been, of what we have accomplished, or what we have learned. They are a composite of who we are as human beings. Some pictures may be worth a thousand words, but memories are priceless.
Pictures are great, but they only capture a second in time. Memories are so much more than a picture. They last longer, they are filled with emotion and details that can never be fully represented in an image. That’s why I love blogging about my memories. I can paint a picture with words that no artist’s brush can come close to putting on canvas; that no Kodak moment, no matter how special, is going to reflect completely. As I write about my memories, they trigger other memories. I may only have time to write one a day, but at the end of a year I can have a book filled with my most treasured possessions. And as I get older, pictures will fade, my memory will fade, but my words will always be vivid and live on forever.
When you show others your pictures, they will say, “that’s nice,” “looks like you had fun,” “you must be very proud.” They can only guess, based on their experience, what you are thinking and feeling. They can’t know what is behind the picture, what happened before it was taken or what came after, like your memories can. For example, I have a picture of my mother holding our first puppy, Caesar, forty-one years ago. It’s a great picture, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. If you read my blog about how we got that puppy then you would see the difference between a photo and the full memory. My mother never intended to get me that dog, but because my cousin made a remark that anger her, she got me the puppy for spite. When people read that blog, they can picture my memory themselves, as though they were there. If I showed them the picture they might say, “that’s nice.” (Link to Caesar Blog Caesar and Mom )
I have tons of memories that pictures could never do justice to. I have a picture of my daughter opening her ipod at Christmas. The picture doesn't show you her shock or tears of joy when she saw it because she really thought she wasn't getting one. Then there was the year my girls opened their Wii and the picture captured their momentary glee, because they didn't expect it since they were sold out in every store. What the pictures didn't show was the fact that I called around and searched online for days, using a Wii tracker, to find it on Amazon before it was sold out again. Another year the girls got Toy Story characters that Burger King was selling weekly. I have a picture of them with their dolls, but not of my husband and brother eating hamburgers for four weeks trying to collect them all for the girls. Everything has a story that a picture cannot tell.
Not everyone likes to write, but I would encourage you to try to record your memories. I think it’s a wonderful way to preserve them and pass them down to your children and grandchildren. I realized how much my own girls never knew about me and my family until they started reading my blogs and the “memoirs” I wrote before they were born. Even back then, in my twenties, I realized that my memories would fade one day. Time has a way of doing that. One day I might even be looking at my mother and Caesar’s picture myself and say, “Isn’t this a nice picture,” and not remember what came before or after that moment in time. But now that will never happen because I have preserved the whole experience in words. And if I recall more of the details, I can revise whatever I have written.
My children will be able to tell all the stories that I heard as a child to their children and grandchildren long after I am gone. I would have loved it if my mother and father had done that for my brother and I. But back then people didn’t write their memories down, they talked and talked and talked about them. And I’m glad I was listening and had the sense to save their memories for my children. We don’t have many old pictures of my aunts, uncles and grandparents so we don’t know how they looked as children. But we know who they are; my children “know” them without ever having met them, in the words and stories I took time to write down.
Words paint a picture in a way that nothing else can. Preserve your memories with words. Pictures are great, but they fall far short of capturing the richness of the experience.